Boris Johnson is unlikely to receive a “warm, welcoming embrace” from the White House if Joe Biden emerges victorious in the US election due to a lingering “resentment” over the prime minister’s previous remarks about Barack Obama.
Sir Kim Darroch, the former UK ambassador to the US, also insisted a Biden administration would be likely to prioritise negotiating a trade deal with the EU –or re-joining the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership – rather than an agreement with Britain.
The former top diplomat to Washington, who left his post after an explosive leak of diplomatic cables criticising the Trump administration, was asked during the Cheltenham Literature Festival who the prime minister would prefer to win the presidential election in 29 days’ time.
“I think they are rather torn,” he replied. “I hesitate to say this, but there will be some Obama people in a Biden administration and they remember some of the things that the current prime minister said about Obama whether as a newspaper columnist or whether it was mayor of London.”
Speaking at the event on Sunday, he went on: “I promise you there is still some resentment and unhappiness over that. I’m not sure there will be, you know, quite the warm, welcoming embrace from Biden for Boris Johnson prime minister, as it would from Donald Trump for Boris Johnson prime minister. I think there are some question marks if Biden wins.”
In a widely-criticised column for the Sun, the then-mayor of London recounted a story about a bust of former prime minister Winston Churchill purportedly being removed from the White House Oval Office.
“Some said it was a snub to Britain,” wrote Mr Johnson at the time. “Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British empire – of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender”.
Lord Darroch also said he believed a Biden administration would not prioritise a free trade deal with the UK – a key aim of Brexiteers, who have long championed the ability to independently negotiate and sign deals across the globe.
“If Biden wins then life becomes to an extent more normal and Nato gets a boost from having a more congenial president of the White House and just international relations become calmer and more predictable,” he said.
“But I don’t think that for Joe Biden’s administration a free trade deal with the UK is going to be a top priority. I think maybe re-joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership or maybe an EU-US deal might be priorities.
“I think the free trade deal is a lot more deliverable a lot more quickly, though with some big and painful concession by us if Trump wins.”